Although some computer users may actively seek pirated software in hopes of saving money, they are taking a big risk because the chances of infection by unexpected malware are one in three for consumers and three in ten for businesses, according to a new study (PDF) commissioned by Microsoft Corp. and conducted by IDC. As a result of these infections, the research shows that consumers will spend 1.5 billion hours and $22 billion identifying, repairing and recovering from the impact of malware, while global enterprises will spend $114 billion to deal with the impact of a malware-induced cyber-attack.
The global study analyzed 270 websites and peer-to-peer (P2P) networks, 108 software downloads, and 155 CDs or DVDs, and it interviewed 2,077 consumers and 258 IT managers or chief information officers in Brazil, China, Germany, India, Mexico, Poland, Russia, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the United States. Researchers found that of counterfeit software that does not come with a computer, 45 percent comes from the Internet, and 78 percent of this software downloaded from websites or P2P networks included some type of spyware, while 36 percent contained Trojans and adware.
“Cybercriminals are tampering with software code and lacing counterfeit copies with malware, putting Canadian businesses and consumers at risk,” said Chris Tortorice, Corporate Counsel, Anti-Piracy, Microsoft Canada Inc. “While buyers should be demanding genuine software when they purchase a computer, it is important for industry and government to continue to work together and look for new ways to protect people and businesses.”
“Canadians have long been at risk to purchase counterfeit products such as software that opens their computer to security breaches that can result in the loss, damage, or misuse of important data or personal information,” said Scott Smith, Director, Intellectual Property and Innovation Policy, The Canadian Chamber of Commerce and The Canadian Intellectual Property Council. “Not only does counterfeit software harm users, but it also negatively impacts the bottom line of legitimate retailers in Canada. Government leadership is essential to the development of an effective enforcement regime and the facilitation of stakeholder partnerships in the country to protect everyone.”
The IDC study, titled “The Dangerous World of Counterfeit and Pirated Software,” was released today as part of Microsoft’s “Play It Safe” campaign, a global initiative to bring awareness to issues related to software piracy.
The following are among the highlights from the consumer survey:
- Sixty-four percent of the people respondents knew, who had used counterfeit software, experienced security issues.
- Forty-five percent of the time, counterfeit software slowed their PCs, and the software had to be uninstalled
- Forty-eight percent of respondents noted that their greatest concern with using counterfeit software was data loss
- Twenty-nine percent were most concerned with identity theft
Embedding counterfeit software with dangerous malware is a new method for criminals to prey on computer users who are unaware of the potential danger.
The IDC white paper also explored the surprising level of end-user software installations made on corporate computers, exposing another method for the introduction of unsecure software into the workplace ecosystem. Although 38 percent of IT managers acknowledge that it happens, 57 percent of workers admit they install personal software onto employer-owned computers. What is alarming is that respondents told IDC that only 30 percent of the software they installed on their work computers was problem-free. Sixty-five percent of IT managers agree that user-installed software increases an organization’s security risks. For many in the enterprise, user-installed software may be a blind spot in ensuring a secure network.
Customers are encouraged to visit Microsoft’s security page to learn about malware and ensure their machine is not infected; if malware is present, the site offers tools to remove the infection. Customers shopping for a new computer are encouraged to buy from a reputable source to ensure they are receiving genuine Microsoft software.